NJPW Best of the Super Juniors 2020 – Night 1

Howdy!

If I had to pick a favorite tournament from the pro wrestling world each year, it probably wouldn’t be the G-1 Climax; it would indeed be the Best of Super Juniors. My love for this event dates back to my tape trading days, when I got addicted to Juniors puro, especially Liger, Sasuke, and Ohtani. Between the BOSJ, the Super J-Cup, Michinoku Pro comps…..a lot of cool stuff would occasionally appear in the mailbox at my college dorm in videotape form.

I had resigned myself to the fact that COVID was going to take the BOSJ this year, but lo and behold, NJPW decided to hold the tournament anyway, albeit with an abbreviated format. Instead of two Blocks and 20 wrestlers, there will be one Block, 10 wrestlers, and the two top point getters will face off for the trophy on the last night.

So with that in mind, let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?

As this tournament is running concurrently with World Tag League, there will be some shared shows throughout. The awesome Michael Bradley will be covering World Tag League for the blog and already has the first matches up, so go give him some love for his excellent work right here: https://blogofdoom.com/index.php/2020/11/15/njpw-world-tag-league-2020-opening-night-11-15-20/

Your competitors for the 2020 Best of the Super Juniors tournament are:

Hiromu Takahashi
SHO
Ryusuke Taguchi
El Desperado
Master Wato
Robbie Eagles
BUSHI
Yuya Uemura (substituting for the injured Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
DOUKI
Taiji Ishimori (current IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion)

Out of those ten, I picked a Hiromu/SHO Final. Let’s see how close I came at the end of 10 shows.

                         

Master Wato (w/ Hiroyoshi Tenzan) (0 Points) vs Yuya Uemura (0 Points) – BOSJ Match

I’m happy that Uemura’s endless Young Lion shots that came before the G-1 Climax matches were noticed strongly enough to get him in the tournament this year. Yeah, he’s an injury replacement, but still. Happy to see him.

And he justifies my excitement by taking it to Wato! Dropkick in the corner and it’s the Young Lion move of death, the Boston Crab on Wato! He blocks Wato from the ropes twice and for a brief moment I was actually smelling an upset, but Wato does make the ropes finally. He takes over from there and we get what Yuya is probably going to be used for most of the time, with Wato getting to show his stuff. He fires elbows to the back of Yuya’s head and fires kicks. Yuya tries a comeback, hitting a nice dropkick and a release German suplex, but Wato blocks the double underhook suplex and hits a Tombstone Driver (guess he and Tenzan have actually been working together) to get the pin. (Master Wato over Yuya Uemura, pinfall, 4:15)

THOUGHTS: **. Not much here to really talk about. Wato adding a new finisher is fine, and Yuya showed his usual good fire. But other than that, it was pretty pedestrian.

   

Robbie Eagles (0 Points) vs DOUKI (0 Points) – BOSJ Match

What a whipsaw here, as I’m on record as not being a big fan of DOUKI, but I’m stoked to see Robbie Eagles back. He was one of my favorite additions to NJPW last year. I wouldn’t mind seeing him go deep in this thing. Fast back and forth to start, with Eagles hitting our first dive of the 2020 BOSJ, a flipping tope onto DOUKI on the ramp.

DOUKI goes to the eyes, then shoves the ref into the top rope to send Eagles crashing to the floor. I know it’s silly to complain about NJPW refs at this point, but c’mon – he used the ref as a weapon and nothing happened. And more, as they fight on the floor and DOUKI shoves the ref down and hits Eagles with a neckbreaker using his metal pole. Back in and DOUKI stays on offense for a bit. Eagles catches him coming in a blind charge and comes back, hitting a sliding lariat to the back of DOUKI’s head.

To the apron and Eagles dropkicks the knee with a springboard, then a running leg lariat for two. More shots to the knee and Meteora in the corner gets two for Robbie. Eagles with a 450 onto the knees of DOUKI, but that allows DOUKI to grab the arms and Eagles is caught. Robbie makes the ropes to break. They go back and forth and Robbie hits 3 kicks, but comes off the ropes and gets clobbered by a lariat. DOUKI with a springboard DDT for two. Neat series of reversals ends with DOUKI getting two off a modified Magistral. DOUKI goes to the well one more time and it proves fatal, as Eagles hits the Turbo Backpack, then hits a 450 splash again onto the leg of DOUKI before applying the Ron Miller special (modified figure-four) to get the tapout. (Robbie Eagles over DOUKI, submission, 10:35)

THOUGHTS: ***. Best DOUKI match I can remember seeing. Eagles worked the leg and got the sub with a leghold, so points for that. They moved quick and despite the super-dumb cheating by DOUKI, it didn’t bog down. I hope Robbie can keep it rolling.

Intermission.

   

SHO (0 Points) vs BUSHI (0 Points) – BOSJ Match

SHO always impresses me with his selling and pacing in his matches, and I would also say that he’s one of the best juniors at being, for lack of a better term, ‘aware’ in a match – his facials and movements really give off the idea that he’s reacting in the midst of an athletic competition, which make his matches all the better.

Quick start and BUSHI ends up on the floor, but avoids a Penalty Kick attempt from the apron and drops SHO face first to the ring. Tour of the barricades follows as BUSHI tosses SHO around. Back in and BUSHI whoops him in the corner with open hand slaps. SHO finally makes a comeback with a spear to get some space, Corner clothesline and a kick combo put BUSHI down for two.

BUSHI back at him with some kicks to send him to the floor and follow with a gorgeous tope, then back in with a neckbreaker for two. They slug it out now, and SHO wins that one and lariats BUSHI down. SHO with a cross-armbreaker now, but BUSHI rolls him over for two to break, so SHO just suplexes him instead. Double knees to the back of BUSHI gets two for SHO. Shock Arrow time, and it hits! We’re done here. (SHO over BUSHI, pinfall, 10:20)

THOUGHTS: ***. They’re ripping through these matches tonight, but it is technically a 10 match card with WTL, so I get it. Anyway, this was a relatively pedestrian affair enlivened completely by SHO, who is absolutely magnetic whenever he’s in the ring. I certainly think that Yoh is a good professional wrestler and I hope he comes back soon, but I’d just as soon see him go singles and stay away from SHO, because I think that SHO is going to be THE guy at some point in the Juniors, assuming he stays a junior, that is.

   

Ryusuke Taguchi (0 Points) vs El Desperado (0 Points) – BOSJ Match

Taguchi is, of course, Mr. Reliable for the BOSJ. He’s won it before (2012) and has appeared in the tournament a whopping 17 times, including the last 15 years in a row. On the other hand, you have Desperado, who was a last minute scratch from the tournament last year with a broken jaw. One of my personal faves, I love my evil luchador mariachi!

Taguchi clowns him to start with the rope running, and avoids a Despy dropkick, so Desperado goes to the eyes, then dropkicks the knee of Taguchi. He posts the leg, then does it again. Taguchi runs for it, what a coward, so Despy posts him. Atta boy. Kneecrusher and a legdrop from Desperado continue to put the knee of Taguchi in a bad, bad way. Taguchi tries to come back with a hip attack, but Desperado is waiting with an atomic drop. Taguchi tries to fake him out, but then does it anyway, and once again, it’s knee to ass time. Desperado then comes off the ropes…..and gets hit with a hip attack. Ah, NJPW. Where the heels are sometimes dumb.

Taguchi looks to go up, but his knee gives way and he thinks better of it. Three Amigos from Taguchi gets two, and from there it’s an anklelock, Desperado makes the ropes. Front suplex and Taguchi goes for it, but misses the Nakamura style hip attack and Despy dropkicks the knee again, then it’s a dragon-screw legwhip from the Cerebral Mariachi into the Stretch Muffler. Taguchi barely makes the ropes after screaming “I quit!” the entire time he was in the hold. I mean, I think that’s what he was saying. I don’t speak Japanese.

More kicks to the knee from Despy and he comes off the ropes, but Taguchi gets a desperation dropkick and a hip attack for two. Desperado LOOKS like he goes for a low blow but I think that was just a trick of the light. No way would Despy do anything that underhanded. They trade holds and Taguchi gets an enzuigiri, goes for the finish, Desperado rolls him up for two, Taguchi rolls it right back for the pin! Bastard. (Ryusuke Taguchi over El Desperado, pinfall, 12:35)

THOUGHTS: ***1/4. Neato keen match here, even with Taguchi’s spotty selling. I liked the last few minutes especially, and while I don’t normally like double rollup finishes, I was fine with it here as they fought against each other for their finishers and ended up leaving themselves open to getting pinned as a result. Fun match.

   

Hiromu Takahashi (0 Points) vs Taiji Ishimori (0 Points) – BOSJ Match

These two met last, of course, at the stadium in Jingu where a focused Ishimori pretty much took Hiromu apart and won the title in a very good match. I have no reason to think this will be any different when it comes to match quality.

They rush each other to start, as you’d expect, and they go faster than I can type. Counters, reversals, dropkicks – the kitchen sink may have been in there. Hiromu hits the first biggie with a dropkick off the apron to Ishimori on the floor to send him into the barricade. Back in and it’s chops for Ishimori, who tries to evade Hiromu by jumping on and off the apron, but Hiromu catches him, then tries to sunset bomb him off the apron. Ishimori flips off so Hiromu tries a ‘rana, but that gets caught and Taiji powerbombs him into the apron. Tremendous sequence there.

Back in and Ishimori works him over for a bit, then they slug it out and Taiji gets caught with a facebuster to bring things back to even. Corner exchanges from both guys with lariats and dropkicks, Ishimori avoids the belly-to-belly into the buckles and they fire off counters before Ishimori tries a handspring elbow and gets caught with a suplex, he fires back with a reverse ‘rana, then he charges Hiromu and now Takahashi gets the throw and sends Ishimori into the buckles. The sequences these two put together are just tremendous, so much fun to watch.

They end up on the apron and Hiromu goes for a suplex, Taiji counters that and goes for a piledriver, Hiromu gets out of that….but then he doesn’t and Ishimori PILEDRIVES HIROMU ON THE RING APRON. WHAT THE FUCK? Look, I’m all for cool-looking shit and it looked as safe as they could make it, but Hiromu had a broken freaking neck (TM Kurt Angle) and one would think that even the safest piledriver is a very, very risky goddamn idea. Anyway, Hiromu falls to the floor as commentary freaks out and is NOT dead, as Ishimori comes off with a moonsault to said floor. He gets caught, though, and Takahashi hits a Michinoku Driver on Ishimori on the floor, because we’re all fucking nuts here, apparently.

Back in and it’s Takahashi with two straight dropkicks, including one to the head of Ishimori, then hits the Dynamite Plunger for two. He looks to finish with the Time Bomb, Ishimori fights it and hits a pump kick. Jumping knee by Ishimori, but he comes off the ropes and Hiromu turns him inside out with a lariat for two. Off the ropes again, this time Ishimori drops Hiromu with a lariat as we’re back and forth here. Shoulderbreaker from Taiji leads to the double knees for two. Ishimori hooks the crossface, Hiromu rolls through it, Ishimori keeps it on and keeps cutting him off, Hiromu finally stretches out a leg to reach the ropes. Awesome.

Ishimori looks to finish now and goes for the Bloody Cross. He lariats Hiromu instead and now Takahashi is dead weight on the mat, tries it again, Hiromu with an armdrag to escape! Huge powerbomb from Hiromu! Ishimori gives it one last go with a neckbreaker, but Hiromu rolls Taiji through into a Death Valley Driver to the buckles, then a second one to the mat, and the Time Bomb puts the champ down for the count. (Hiromu Takahashi over Taiji Ishimori, pinfall, 20:07)

THOUGHTS: ****1/4. Absolutely superb stuff, with the spots being worked into multiple killer sequences. Ishimori looked great and Hiromu gutted through it and picked up the win. I was not a fan of doing piledrivers on the apron and probably wouldn’t be if both guys didn’t have any history of neck problems, to be honest, but they’re going to do what they’re going to do. They have great chemistry together and the match flew by, so I can’t give it less, but I really hope they’re as careful as they can be from here on in.

Hiromu gives the victor’s speech and we wrap it up.

STANDINGS AFTER NIGHT 1:

Hiromu Takahashi:                         2 Points
Ryusuke Taguchi:                           2 Points
Master Wato:                                 2 Points
SHO:                                              2 Points
Robbie Eagles:                               2 Points
El Desperado:                                0 Points
Taiji Ishimori:                                  0 Points
BUSHI:                                            0 Points
Yuya Uemura:                                0 Points
DOUKI:                                           0 Points

FINAL THOUGHTS: An outstanding main event and a rock solid undercard equals a good first day in the 2020 BOSJ. I’m looking forward to seeing who gets the big shove out of this one, I have to admit – one would think that the Wrestle Kingdom challenger will either be from this tournament or the Super J-Cup winner, so it’s definitely worth a watch.

See you next time for day 2! And don’t forget to keep up on World Tag League with Mike!

As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote,

Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on Twitter
[email protected] for email